My crowning moment in word serendipity is seared into my brain. I was thumbing through Paul Hellweg’s ”Insomniac’s Dictionary” when I stumbled upon the word resistentialism , which Hellweg defines as ”seemingly spiteful behavior manifested by inanimate objects.”
Reading that definition, I had what can only be described as a revelation. I felt that an entire category of my experience had been uplifted from the Cimmerian realm of the Inexpressible into the clear, comforting light of the Known.
Here, at last, was a word for the rug that quietly curls up so it can snag your toe, the sock gone AWOL from the dryer, the slippery piece of toast that always hits the floor jelly side down. Here, at last, was the word that explained the countless insolent acts of things, especially the infuriating intractability of plastic wrap.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines resistentialism as a ”mock philosophy which maintains that inanimate objects are hostile to humans” and calls it a ”humorous blend” of the Latin res , thing(s), and French résister , to resist, with existentialism . The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Fifth Edition (2002), perhaps in resistential defiance of its title, expands that definition to ”a mock philosophy maintaining that inanimate objects are hostile to humans or seek to thwart human endeavours.”